This week, we are all plunging into the word of opportunity gaps. I want to start by defining what exactly an opportunity gap is. My hope was to create a monumental definition, but I failed to create one that sparkled. Instead, I will use one from a website that I have always liked. An opportunity gap is a, ” way in which race, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, English proficiency, community wealth, familial situations, or other factors contribute to or perpetuate lower educational aspirations, achievement, and attainment for certain groups of students (edglossary.org).”
Clearly, opportunity gaps are diseases that permeate throughout the world and especially our education systems. How could they not? There are six common barriers in that definition that cause opportunity gaps and not one of those factors are within the students control. I don’t know anyone in my group of friends or family that didn’t have an opportunity gap to face in education. I encourage you to stop here and think. Do you know anyone who didn’t face one of the six common barriers above? If they didn’t face one of the common reasons, did they face a reason not listed? How common is the chance of not facing an opportunity gap?
To further emphasize the epidemic of the opportunity gap, the following analogy could help drive home the unbalanced chances in education. The Oregonian article in this week’s reading provided a good one, “Imagine you had a race with two runners who both ran at the exact same pace,” said John Tapogna, the study’s analyst and managing director at economics and policy firm ECONorthwest. “But you started one five seconds earlier. If you let them both run for exactly four minutes to see if they could get to a certain finish line, only one would get there.”
How do we solve it? I took my question to the World Wide Web in search of the lone answer. I noticed several different websites citing a book Closing the Opportunity Gap published by the National Center for Education Policy. Now, the only way to crack the book open was through purchase. Instead, I read several abstracts. They emphasized the idea of opportunities for a college education. To me, this was hitting kids after it was too late. College is the end of the race. The book did offer one uplifting promise. They claimed to have the answer to solve the opportunity gap in America, only upon purchase of the book. However, the cover photo showed several people carrying books. Maybe it was a hint, was community effort the answer?
Link to the Book: https://play.google.com/store/books/details?id=sC9pAgAAQBAJ&source=productsearch&utm_source=HA_Desktop_US&utm_medium=SEM&utm_campaign=PLA&pcampaignid=MKTAD0930BO1
Another blog talked about the types of gaps. These types of gaps continue the power of the opportunity gap. Essentially, these types of gaps are rivers flowing into the opportunity gaped ocean. The blogger explained that we have expectation gaps. We expect things of certain people and lower our expectations for others. Teacher expectations can result in a varied performance among the class. The relationship gap is when students don’t have a trusting relationship with teachers. Teachers should be making more of an effort to close the gap by promoting healthy relationships with students. The final gap, the participation gap, blamed after school opportunities. Students who are more involved in school can close the gap themselves. The school can help by providing the opportunities (ASDC 2012).
My quest for an answer became lost in jargon, opinions and pointing the finger. The only conclusion I came to was that there isn’t one answer. There is no right way to fix the gap.
I then thought back to the race analogy. How is anything going to change or get better if the other racer still got the five second head start at the beginning of the race?
The series of questions came to an end when I asked myself, how is it that the opportunity gap has become so researched yet still so prominent? Why hasn’t anyone listened to the feedback and advice? I then began to think about our country. I thought about our very government structure. The conclusion I came to was a terrifying possibility.
In order for capitalism to work, there needs to be a division of wealth. This is the unfortunate truth of our future. In high school, there are students that our society is depending on to fail. In a kindergarten classroom, there are students our society needs to struggle. We need them to struggle so they can be the have not’s. This is so other kids in the class can be the have’s. It’s not a hope or desire, it is a NEED. A NEED for failure.
I then pose this question, for our country to be successful to we NEED the opportunity gap?
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